Chiefs’ Initiation: A Quest for Change in Washington

So I pulled up to the gas pump when this guy with a squeegee outfitted like a high school freshman asked if he could wash my windows and pump my gas.

This was not a pick-up line. He and a band of roving Navy petty officers were prowling the Navy Exchange gas station as a part of their Chiefs’ Initiation.

The Navy has many traditions. Some see them as silly and even offensive. We like Navy traditions. We find them fascinating, but a guy who wants to wash your windows and pump your gas for money is pushing it.

This chiefs’ initiation included the soon-to-be E-7s of the greater Washington, D.C., area. More than 40 first class petty officers, we were told.

Welcome to Rush Week, boys and girls! One pledge explained was emphatic that this ritual is a big deal: Opt out and you will never be considered a chief. (Never? Ever?!) The real live chief watching his pledges, prevented lengthy conversation, but it appeared some of these guys were from Naval Air Facility Washington, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. One if not more of these senior NCOs fly with the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps. CNO Adm. Gary Roughead knows the deal. Hey Gary – so, you like that your soon-to- be chiefs are skulking around the gas station, yards from your Pentagon office prostituting themselves for a few dollars? Is this the diversity with which you are obsessed? Do these guys hit you up for money in the parking lot? Shake down your driver? Maybe stop by your quarters at the Navy Yard? Which quarters are you in again? We’ll send them your way. Ridiculous? No more so than forcing this “tradition” on an unsuspecting public.

So, what does this little exercise do for a future chief? Teach humility? Maybe. Put him or her in an uncomfortable position? Probably. But in the Navy’s (c’mon, say it with me!) narcissistic tradition, this practice is about the Navy. Damn the public and full speed ahead! Are these guys any better than the squeegee-wielding 10-year olds on DC’s New York Ave. who harass drivers at traffic lights? It isn’t pretty.

The funds collected we’re told support the Chiefs’ Mess to help unit families. (Which unit was that?) We have our doubts.

Vanity! Thy name art Chiefs’ Initiation

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